A recent US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey concluded that 14.6% of the average American's energy intake is from "added sugar," which refers to sugar that is not derived from whole foods. A banana, for example, is a whole food, while a cookie contains added sugar. More than half of added sugar calories are from sweetened drinks and desserts. Lots of added sugar can have negative effects on our bodies, including excessive weight gain and other health problems. For this reason, many choose low-calorie substitutes for drinks, snacks, and desserts.
Natural alternatives to white sugar include brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup, but they also tend to be high in calories. Consequently, alternative "low-calorie sweeteners" (LCSs), mostly artificial chemical combinations, have become popular. The most common LCSs todya are aspartame, Ace-K, stevia, and sucralose. Not all LCSs are artificial－stevia comes from plant leaves.
Alternative sweeteners can be hard to use in cooking because some cannot be heated and most are far sweeter than white sugar. Aspartame and Ace-K are 200 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is 300 times sweeter, and sucralose has twice the sweetness of stevia. Some new sweeteners are even more intense. A Japanese company recently developed "Advantame," which is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar. Only a tiny amount of this substance is required to sweeten something.
When choosing sweeteners, it is important to consider health issues. Making desserts with lots of white sugar, for example, results in high-calorie dishes that could lead to weight gain. There are those who prefer LCSs for this very reason. Apart from calories, however, some research links consuming artificial LCSs with various other health concerns. Some LCSs contain strong chemmicals suspected of causing cancer, while others have been shown to affect memory and brain development, so they can be dangerous, especially for young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. There are a few relatively natural alternative sweeteners, like xylitol and sorbitol, which are low in calories. Unfortunately, these move through the body extremely slowly, so consuming large amounts can cause stomach trouble.
When people want something sweet, even with all the information, it is difficult for them to decide whether to stick to common higher calorie sweeteners like sugar or to use LCSs. Many varieties of gum and candy today contain one or more artificial sweeteners; nontheless, some people who would not put artificial sweeteners in hot drinks may still buy such items. Individuals need to weigh the options and then choose the sweeteners that best suit their needs and circumstances.